There are myriad reasons hunting advocates give for the decline: growing urbanization that puts more kids out-of-touch with the land; landowners’ increasing unwillingness to let hunters onto their property; an inability to compete with video games, cell phones and other accoutrements of modern life; and increasingly busier activities schedules that take free time from kids — and parents — that could be used to hunt. The result, according to a report released by multiple hunting organizations, has been that there aren’t enough young hunters to replace the current population of adults. (Biggest surprise to me was the state that had the lowest replacement rate: Michigan.)
There’s been no lack of effort in trying to attract youths to hunting. Hunting organizations have been successful in lobbying state legislatures to reduce the minimum age a child can go with a licensed adult on a hunt; at least 30 have done so, including the unexpectedly woebegone hunting state of Michigan. Many states also have programs that allow youth hunters to start their season ahead of schedule, when wildlife would be at its most plentiful. Yet the declines remain unabated.
It seems to me there is one factor being left out in the discussion as to why fewer youths are hunting — the current American gun culture. In my lifetime — I’m 44 years old — gun culture has turned from the hunters I see on my Facebook feed to the Second Amendment, stand-your-ground absoluteness I think many more of us also see on our Facebook feed.
Actually, the turnaround in gun culture, based on these numbers from Pew Research Center, has happened in the lifetimes of my 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter:
About half (48%) of gun owners said the main reason they owned a gun was for protection, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February 2013. About three-in-ten (32%) said they owned a gun for hunting. That was a turnaround from 1999 when 49% said they owned a gun for hunting and 26% said they had a gun for protection in an ABC News/Washington Post poll.